Parents and carers of girls made up more than half of the respondents, and two-thirds of them supported the idea.
But in making the final decision, the department said it weighed the survey results against the feedback from those who would be most affected, such as staff at surrounding schools and existing students of Randwick Boys’ and Girls’.
Of the 192 female students who responded, 70 per cent said they would not be interested in attending a co-ed Randwick Boys’, and more than half of the 300 parents at Randwick Girls’ who responded said they would not send their daughters there.
There was also strong opposition from staff at other schools in the eastern suburbs network, including Randwick Girls’, JJ Cahill, Matraville and South Sydney high schools, who were concerned about the impact on enrolments.
“The department has accepted [an] independent assessment that the consultation process was inconclusive in determining a meaningful community position,” said Murat Dizdar, the department’s deputy secretary of educational services.
“The independent analysis shows quite clearly that when you dive deeper, the views of the families and students who would be most directly impacted by a change of the provision there at Randwick did not provide clear support for the change.”
Mr Dizdar said the eastern suburbs schools operated as a network, rather than a series of stand-alone schools, and there was existing capacity at schools in the south of the district, such as JJ Cahill and Matraville.
Without Randwick Boys’, eastern suburbs parents would not have the option of a public boys’ high school.
Two new or upgraded schools – Inner Sydney High and Alexandria Park Community School – were about to open, and the two Randwick single-sex schools were part of the “tapestry of provision in the area”, he said.
The department would now proceed with plans to upgrade the two Randwick schools. It would also develop a strategy to improve infrastructure and curriculum offerings across the whole eastern suburbs network.
Community groups have been campaigning for a new co-ed high school in the eastern suburbs, saying there is not enough capacity to cope with the numbers of students who attend the area’s primary schools.
They say the new school is needed in the northern part of the region, and that schools in the southern parts – such as Maroubra and Matraville, some of which have many vacant classrooms – are too far away for students to travel to.
“We will look at strengthening our provision across all of those schools,” Mr Dizdar said. “We are well placed to cater for the demand.”
Randwick Boys’ P&C president Birgit Schickinger said parents would be “extremely disappointed by this outcome, especially given that the majority of people surveyed were in favour of turning Randwick Boys’ into a co-ed high school”.
“Randwick Boys’ will continue to be a strong, caring, nurturing school for the boys in this area, and we will work with the department to make sure it gets better facilities and resources.”
Continue the conversation at our SMH Student Facebook group.
Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald